First on Fox: A small business owner in central Virginia warned of rising inflation and the state of the economy in the U.S. They expect “a lot of trouble” this holiday season with supply chain issues and commodity prices skyrocketing.
Robin Litz and her husband, Shawn, along with their daughter, Tara Birelli, own a small business called Kissed Cupcakes in Forest, Virginia. The trio sat down for a recent interview with FOX Business where they shared their concerns about the US economy and how inflation, which is at a 40-year high, and high gas prices have negatively impacted their 11-year-old small business.
Shawn told FOX Business that the overall cost of goods for his family business, which was launched in 2011, “has gone up anywhere between 30 to 35 percent” and said he would have priced himself “out of business” if they weren’t. would have done They were forced to raise prices “perhaps 10 to 15 percent.”
“For example, a year and a half ago, I was paying $2 a pound for butter,” Shawn said. “… $3.75 a pound now. Eggs, [we were] Bought 60-count eggs for $3.50, now it’s $10.”
“So butter, sugar, flour, they’ve all gone up,” he continued. “I would say it’s more than 30 to 35 percent.”
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Robin said she believed “the increase in gas prices has caused inflation on their goods”, noting that prices of everyday items such as containers have also increased, “not just raw materials.”
“And everything has gone up faster in probably the last nine months than it has in the 10 years we’ve been in business,” added Shawn, noting that he used to go to “four or five grocery stores” alone when he was gone.
“And at one point we couldn’t find powdered sugar anywhere,” said Robin. “We finally found it through Sam’s Club, and had to ship it from Houston, Texas to Lynchburg, Virginia. It was nowhere to be found.”
Shawn commented that until they found powdered sugar at Sam’s Club, their business depended on small two-pound bags of the confectionery staple from Walmart.
Robin said one of her “major concerns” was the general holiday shortage, which she predicted would worsen this year.
When asked what advice he would give to the Biden administration and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as small business owners, Shawn said, “It’s just a little joke. I don’t think they have ears to listen. The middle class. I don’t think They have the ears of common people to hear.”
“This is the kind of division that exists in this country even now,” he added. “It’s making a lot of it.”
“I don’t want to travel to DC, I want them to come here. I want you to come to our shop. I want you to see what’s going on here,” Robin said. “I want you to see how we’re suffering, how we can’t make payroll, how we’ve lost customers, how employee morale has gone down over the last few years.”
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When asked what they think of politicians like President Biden who have jumped the gun to proclaim an economic recovery, Robin and Shawn said, “The economy is not back.”
“Totally disagree. I don’t care if he goes out there and says inflation went down to 0% or went up to 0% or what have you. It’s still there. Nothing’s changed. I still have the same prices. Paying what I’m paying for everything,” Shawn said. “So what happens when gas goes down a dollar when it goes up three bucks, but my commodity prices haven’t gone down to reflect that dollar. It’s gone down in gas, so I say bologna.”
Later in the interview, Tara expressed concern about small businesses being taken for granted and contrasted them with corporate America, saying that small businesses are the “backbone” of America and that they really care about their customers.
“When you work in a small business setting, we care about people,” Tara said. “We just don’t care about what goes out the door, how much money we make. We care about the people who work for us and when you lose that, when you lose that connection, that’s what I think. That’s exactly what we’re losing. Now and if you have all these small businesses that close and you lose that family, what’s the world going to look like?”
While inflation, supply chain issues and high gas prices have affected his small business over the past year and a half, he was facing many obstacles before that, including the pandemic. Less than two weeks after they moved into the large retail space in March 2020, many of the weddings and birthday parties they were planning were canceled due to state and country shutdowns.
“We had to create something new, something different,” Robin said. “People couldn’t find bread on the bakery shelves, so we started baking bread because that’s what the customers wanted. That’s what they wanted. We were able to stay open because we were a food industry, so we did a lot of curbside pickups. We delivered. We rolled out the food trailer.”
Despite deliveries and curbside pickups, Robin said sales of Kissed Cupcakes were “down for a while,” forcing them to lay off some of their employees. She then said they applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, but were unsuccessful during the first round, and when they finally received the check after the second round, they discovered it wouldn’t cover a single paycheck. It was about $8,800.
Robin said Kissed Cupcakes isn’t the only small business in the area struggling, adding that he knows several small business owners and “most of them had to close” because they couldn’t even get PPP money.
“The problem was once all the restrictions were lifted and you could hire people back. You could open up. You could reactivate. Nobody wanted to work,” Robin said. She also mentioned the minimum wage in Virginia “has risen so high” that they “can’t maintain 160 hours a week.”
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Local media reports for the surrounding area near Kissed Cupcakes indicate that many small businesses are facing the same obstacles as the Litz family. Bert Taylor, owner of Badger on Men, a Lynchburg bar and restaurant, told local media over the summer that he has seen product prices rise 20% to 23%.
“You just have to find more ways to cut back. I mean, you can change your prices on the menu at a certain point, like you can’t charge, you know, I can’t charge you 80 dollars for 20 chickens. .Wings, I can’t do that I still have to be fair,” Taylor said.